People sometimes ask me why I became a writer.

My semi-serious answer is that this is one of the few careers where you can start your working day at ten o'clock and be perfectly justified in sitting around coffee shops with your hair tied back by the elastic that came with yesterday's mail.

But every once in a while, duty, in the form of you publicist, calls, and you have to put yourself together and get your picture taken.

So it was yesterday, when I traveled to New York for a photo shoot for a magazine that's doing a piece about me come September, when LITTLE EARTHQUAKES comes out.

From the start, it became clear that this was going to be a Very Big Deal, involving lots of people, custom-built sets, and a hot-shot photographer.

"The photo editor's going to call you," my publicist said.

"The stylist will be in touch," the photo editor said.

"We're going to take pictures that look like paintings," the stylist told me. "We've been looking at some Madonnas and child, some Boteros..."

Oh, dear.

It serves me right for having Cannie moan "I'm a walking Botero" in GOOD IN BED.

If you haven't seen them, Botero's female figures are satires, deliberately inflated exaggerations meant to poke fun at Spain's bourgeoisie.

And they ain't small. According to one museum, "To Botero beauty is first and foremost form and volume. When he paints women he finds supreme beauty in the curves of the female body. Botero's women, however, are no svelte, glamorous maidens - no, they are big, ultra feminine and opulent dames with ample thighs, wide hips and voluptuous behinds."

And -- yes -- most of them are nudes.

"Are you all right with wearing lingerie?" the stylist asked. "Are you comfortable showing a little skin?"

"Um..."

"No nudity!" my mother shouted in the background.

"I guess," I said weakly. I gave the stylist my measurements, hung up the phone, and tried not to worry.

But I couldn't help myself. Did I really want to be nekkid, or close to it, in a national magazine?

The powers-that-be assured me that the shots were going to be lovely and artistic. Better still, some of them would be with my baby, which meant I had a chance of going home with a beautifully lit, shot, styled photograph of me and the Lu.

And...well, why should skinny girls get to have all the fun?

And, even more importantly, why should big girls be deprived of the experience of opening a magazine and seeing someone who's happy and successful and looks like them, instead of a Barbie doll?

I figured, it's one thing to talk a good game about self-acceptance and size prejudice and how I want my daughter to grow up with a broader definition of beauty than the one we're currently stuck with.

It's another thing -- a much scarier thing -- to put your money (and your cleavage, and your thighs) where your mouth is.

So I might live to regret this. But yesterday I drove to New York and posed in a nighty, a silk dress with a built-in push-up bra and a few strategically placed pillows and a carefully draped swath of silk.

The guy who did my hair was a genius, and the woman who did my makeup made me look lovely, and covered up all my Cape Cod-acquired tan lines.

The sets were stunning reproductions of Botero's backgrounds, right down to the color of the walls and the cushions on the couch.

The photographer was terrific; the stylist was a sweetheart. And, as for the pictures....everyone in the room kept saying, "beautiful! beautiful!" or "So sensual!" At this point, I'm convinced that "so sensual!", when translated from stylist-speak into English, actually means "We can see your boobies! And they are BIG!"

Having peeked at a few of the Polaroids, I can tell you that I don't think Hugh Hefner's going to be calling any time soon, unless he's doing a special collector's edition on back flab (it'll be me and Yoanna from America's Next Top Model).

But hey. It's me. And me and Lucy, in some of the pictures (Lucy, by the way, does do full frontal, but only when it's for artistic reasons).

Now I just have to hope for the best for the next six weeks or so, and pray that unretouched photos of my chest don't wind up in a fetish magazine.



Jen